(Photo by my friend Graeme Sprange: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsprangle)
The other day I listened to a free webinar put on by David Laplante and what was so refreshing about his presentation is the way in which he threw down the gauntlet in regards to the future of communications and how business was either going to adapt or fail. Simple. He closed the webinar with a clear message: Lead or follow fast.
But many in the busines community, are not leading or following fast. Certainly our governments are not. Neither are our educators (with a few exceptions, don’t get your degree in a knot). So who is leading?
They are carving out market share in unprecedented numbers. Social technology is allowing them to drive at high speed with little drag, and even less bureaucracy. As those who are leading grow their business, they will utilize technology as they bring on staff, empowering them to follow—fast. I think the gap will widen markedly in the next year between slow-moving, slow-responding business models and faster, more responsive entrepreneurs.
Zappos is famous for ensuring employees are following their leader fast—CEO Tony Hsieh was no slouch, he realized early on that customers were going to be ahead of the company in their need for information (and service) and that to lead they had to be able to respond to that intelligence. Anyone with a mobile phone is your front line equal—your staff don’t automatically know more because they have a Staples or Best Buy uniform on and they aren’t automatically able to answer customer needs because they’re standing behind a counter. Creating an infrastructure, across your company, that seeds and grows conversations at every touch point with customers is what will keep you in the game, and in the conversation. It also has an added bonus of making work more meaningful to Gen Y and Millennials who will expect more digital freedom and will not likely tolerate a top-down management structure that ignores the front line staff who, incidentally, are the ones engaging with your most prized possession—your customer.
Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, two great writers and fast leaders, have written a book coming out in September called Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business and from reading their recent article in Harvard Business Review, I am stoked to hear more. I loved this quote from their article, it perfectly sums up how the landscape is flattening and becoming less hierarchical through technological advances and the socialized nature of communications that result from these advances:
“Our research shows that technological innovation can now come from anywhere in a company. What makes the difference is whether the company has organized itself so that its creative people can become HEROes.” (highly empowered and resourceful operatives.)
I am pretty excited to hear more of what they have to say on this subject. Employees as heroes? Where do I sign up?
So, what if you the idea of allowing your staff to tweet to customers during their work day makes you shiver and recoil with a Waspy head turn, whilst uttering, that is not how we do business?
Welcome to extinction.